December 12, 2007

The Lord Is My Lawyer

2007 1534 page28 cap KNEW THAT going to law school wouldn’t be easy: the mandatory grading curve, knowing that your entire grade for the semester would be based on one final exam, and facing the barrage of questions each morning from professors employing the “Socratic method.” What I didn’t realize, however, is that I would have to defend my career choice to many people who see Christianity and the law as opposing forces. I’ll never forget one woman who, after hearing I was going to law school, said, “Law—won’t you have a lot of moral and ethical problems with that field?”
To be fair, I realize that not all lawyers are wholesome Christian individuals, but 
the same may be said of individuals in any profession. I’ve come to realize that the role of the lawyer, the advocate, is a unique one deserving of our attention and perhaps, in some cases, our admiration.
The lawyer plays a distinct role in society, serving as an advocate for their client. In a court of law the lawyer is the voice of the client, and in many cases the outcome of a trial may be determined largely by the lawyer’s ability to convey their client’s message to the judge or jury. This courtroom scenario should seem familiar to many of us. As one of my favorite pastors, Gabriel Katrib, once pointed out, Jesus “is our Lawyer.” When we were condemned to die for our sins, Jesus advocated on our behalf. He didn’t leave us to die the death that we deserved; but rather, He organized a plea bargain with God so that we wouldn’t have to face the death penalty.
2007 1534 page28Most plea bargains in our legal system result in a reduced sentence (serve three years instead of six, or life without parole instead of the death penalty), but this plea bargain was different. In the ultimate sacrifice Jesus took our place. He served our sentence, and all we have to do is accept His gift to us. All He asks is that we say yes to His sacrifice. I know many dedicated Christian lawyers who work hard for their clients, but I can’t imagine they would be willing to serve in the place of the accused.
Jesus has always been on our side; He has never stopped advocating for us, and that is truly the role of a Christian lawyer—to serve as their advocate just as Christ has served as ours, to give a voice to those who cannot speak.
Speaking for the Unheard
Psalm 82:3 says: “Give fair justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy” (NRSV).* Many attorneys truly turn the words of this psalm into reality. From protecting an abused child as a public guardian to upholding the rights of those persecuted for their religious beliefs to securing freedom for men and women seeking asylum from ruthless dictators, attorneys make a difference in their world. So many voices around the world go unheard every day: the cries of a child in Sudan, the screams of a mother in Palestine as she holds her dying baby, the voices of child soldiers in Chad—too young to know the meaning of war. Lawyers all across the planet are giving a voice to those whose voices would otherwise remain unheard.
In the last few years I have looked deep into the eyes of those in pain and seen their suffering, sharing in their sorrows. Traveling throughout the Middle East, working at the United Nations in New York and at the International Human Rights Institute—my life has been changed by the people I have come in contact with.
People First
One little girl in particular touched my heart in a special way. I’ll never forget sitting in the conference room of the U.N. and seeing 11-year-old Krupali of India. She spoke to a meeting room filled with diplomats and ambassadors from around the world. Speaking with the innocence of a child, she told us about her one dream in life. As she began to talk about her “dream man,” my mind raced to thoughts of “prince charming” and the dreams of American girls to marry a man who is tall, dark, and handsome—a doctor, a businessman, a man with a big house or a fancy car like the one our Barbie dolls drove in.
But this was not Krupali’s dream. Her dream in life was to marry a man who had his own toilet because every day she had to walk three miles to find a place where she can use facilities without the fear of being raped or hurt. I remember sitting there stunned to even imagine that something so small, something I take for granted every single day of my life, could mean so much to someone else.
Children have no choice where they are born. I remember asking myself, Why am I here and Krupali there? My only comfort is to know that something can be done to help children like Krupali and others around the world. Human rights attorneys and others are working for things such as better sanitation. They work for the upholding of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the preservation of religious freedoms. They work to make people listen, to make them care, to advocate on behalf of the helpless.
I know what I’ll say next time someone questions my career choice. I’ll tell them I would have a moral problem with not being a lawyer—with not doing what I feel called by God to do. I’ll tell them I have a moral problem with not advocating for the weak and helpless. Whether in a courtroom, operating room, boardroom, or classroom, what the world needs now is more good “lawyers,” advocates in any field, fighting to make the voices of the helpless heard.
*Bible texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission.
Kelly Razzouk recently graduated from law school. She wrote this piece while working in Washington, D.C.